I had the opportunity to hear a very good presentation by Don Hannan of NYSDOT on New York's high speed rail (HSR) efforts at the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council (GBNRTC) Policy Committee meeting yesterday morning. Lots of information and speculation out there, and it was nice to have it all put together.
The Partnership has been engaged in the process. Our staff coordinated with other Upstate NY metro chambers of commerce along the proposed "Empire Corridor" from Buffalo to Albany, crafting regional impact statements that will be included in New York's application for federal HSR stimulus funds. That package is being finalized this week, and I'll share it here in the blog when it's done.
The federal HSR program calls for $8B in discretionary grants. That means that the cash is not being awarded by any kind of formula, as infrastructure funding often is, but that the money will be spent on the projects that are the most strategic and most ready-to-go. It puts New York at an advantage, as the state has been developing a rail plan for some time - already working with industry consultants to plan the expansion.
Earlier this month, New York submitted 37 pre-applications for HSR projects totaling $8.4B - part of over 200 submitted nationwide totaling $105B. The President has made it clear that the stimulus funds are "a downpayment" on future funding for HSR, and the House and Senate have already expressed willingness to put up to $4B annually toward the program.
Currently, top speed from Niagara Falls to Albany is 79 MPH - the scheduled time for the trip is 4:55, though the average time is 5:44. This is due to delays in the Albany area, where there is a stretch with only one track - and trains must alternate use. A dedicated HSR line (up to 110 MPG) from WNY to Albany would cut the scheduled time to 3:51.
From the Partnership's perspective, the most exciting part of the HSR initiative is the connection from NYC and the east coast through Buffalo to midwest cities, and to Toronto. The logistics opportunities available to this part of the country will be substantial, and will go a long way to fulfilling the goals of interconnected, livable communities, environmental quality and economic competitiveness. We're pleased to be able to be a part of this historic process, and look forward to the submission of New York's application for HSR stimulus funds, which is due August 24. We'll keep you posted here in this blog as updates become available.